Media Bias Is Not What You Think

Often the mainstream media is accused of being biased. This accusation normally comes from conservatives.  Of course bias depends somewhat on your point of view. We talk in terms of left or right. That assumes some center and a person’s, or groups views are either left or right of center. In truth we are each biased as to where the center is, or should be. We tend to see left or right in relation to our own position or the position of the people with which we surround ourselves. If most people around us have a particular viewpoint we see that as the norm but it could be way to one side or the other.

So is the media biased? One report looked at the political affiliations of the journalist. The results show that Democrat journalists consistently outnumber Republicans.

From the Washington Post

Image courtesy of The American Journalist in the Digital Age

That would lead us to conclude that there is a significant Democrat bias among reporters. Other research tends to support this conclusion also. If you watch the news attentively you can see the bias. Some is very obvious others are much more subtle but the bias is always there.  By the way, don’t be deceived about the designation of “Independent”. People, especially reporters, like to think of themselves as neutral and objective, but just because a person calls himself or herself independent does not mean they are neutral or objective.  When interviewed about their particular views and voting habits they nearly always fall squarely into a Republican or Democrat stance.

When it comes to politics and social issues we are taught to think in terms of Republican or Democrat, left or right, Conservative or Liberal. The media is thinking about something totally different. There is something that matters much more than who becomes President. What matters most is ratings, viewership and advertizing sales.

The media has many biases but the most important is creating a story that will make people tune in.  Notice how this has played out in this election cycle so far.  There were a dozen or so candidates for the Republican nomination but which one could they make out to be the most “controversial”, who would give them the greatest number of provocative sound bites. The obvious choice was Donald Trump and Trump knew it. If he could keep feeding them material then he would get free coverage on the news. From my estimation Trump got three times as much media coverage as all the other candidates combined.

Was any of it about real issues? Not really, it was about off handed remarks blown out of proportion to create some new “controversy”.  It was never about substance.

As we got to the Republican convention, Trump clearly had the nominations, but the media created a hype that somehow Cruz would try to pull a coop. Of course it made for a good story, and people tuned in to see what would happen but it was all media hype. Then there was the big “controversy” as to whether or not Cruz would endorse Trump.

If the primary media bias was about liberal of conservative polices then that would have been the content of the reporting, but it never is. It is always about superficial hype.

The same was true of the Democratic campaign. The Democratic leadership always wanted Hillary. It was always assumed that she would win the nomination. They have been working toward this sense Bill was President. Bernie Sanders was too extreme and never had a chance, but that does not make for a good news story. So Bernie became a big news story. They reported on his dedicated and energized youthful followers. They created a “real” threat to Hillary’s candidacy. Even at the Democratic Convention the media created a story. ‘Will Bernie endorse Hillary?’ ‘Will his supporters back her?’ The drama continues on the convention floor. Viewers stay tuned to see what will happen and the advertizing dollars keep rolling in.

Everyone thinks that in a presidential election either the Republicans or the Democrats win. The real winner is the media. Each party raised hundreds of millions of dollars. It doesn’t matter who wins the media gets it all. The more “controversy” they can create the more viewers they have; the more viewers the higher the cost for advertizing.  The media loves “Raciest” Trump and “Crooked” Hillary. Keep the scandals rolling in and the money will roll in right behind it.

Trump will say he hates the media and how biased they are. The media loves it and Trump loves the coverage it gets him. Trump challenges the media to show the record breaking turnout to his rallies and the pathetically poor turnout to the Hillary rallies. The media never shows the crowds. Trump says it is because they are biased toward Hillary. That may be true but mostly they are biased toward creating the appearance of a close race. As long as the race is close the viewing audience will stay energized.  If it looks like slam-dunk for Trump then the race is over and no one will watch.

For sure the media is bias. For sure they lean to the left. But the biggest bias is not what you think. They are biased toward themselves. They are biased towards controversy and the all mighty dollar. Who will win the race? The media will.

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Touring Oppression, Obsession and Greed

Americans like to tour other countries. Sometimes we say that they have history all around them, but in America it is hard to find anything that is more than a few hundred years old. So we travel the rest of the world looking for really old stuff, stuff with real history. Of course the things we find are the great structures and works of architecture that have withstood the test of time: the pyramids, palaces, cathedrals, temples, fortresses, and castles.

In general, we don’t have those things in America. We think it is because we are not that old. The truth is age has little to do with it. It is about the structure of society and the concentration of power and wealth. Egypt does not have pyramids because it is old. Egypt has pyramids because it had a social structure that placed all power and wealth in the hands of a very few people. The rest of the country was enslaved and worked to accomplish the wishes of those at the top. It is estimated that tens of thousands of slaves worked to build the pyramids.

No one travels to Russia to see the great accomplishments of the communist system. No, they go to see the churches and palaces built during the time of the czars.

In Rome we see the great temples, forum, coliseum, aqueducts and fountains built by the thousands of slaves captured during the various military conquests. It is estimated that at one time there were ten slaves to every free man in Rome.

In France we see the ridiculously lavish, palaces and art collections of the Kings who taxed the peasants to near starvation.

At the Vatican you can see some great cathedrals and works of art paid for through abusive practices of paying indulgences.

As you travel from place to place the names change but the story is much the same. Wonderful architectural structures and beautiful collections of fine art all acquired because a few people had the power, wealth and control of public resources to lavish on themselves and their own interests. We don’t have those things in America not because we are not that old. We don’t have them because we have placed our focus on the freedom of opportunity for the common man. That is not to say that we don’t have some very wealthy people. We do, and they live some very lavish lifestyles. You can watch “lifestyles of the rich and famous” and see all kinds of wealthy Americans, but there is something radically different. We feel that these people earned their money, or at least we willingly bought their product of service. Somehow we don’t feel like they obtained their wealth through the oppression of others.

So there you have it. We admire these great structures, and art collections of history. We marvel at the great empires of the past that brought them into being. Then we create laws and social structures to guarantee that concentrations of wealth and power like that will never happen again.

It really is hypocritical tourism. We praise the accomplishments of oppressive empires of the past and condemn them in the present.

What kind of monuments will we build in our present day that will become the tourist attractions of the future? Will they be monuments of greed and oppression? Will they be monuments of individual expression, like the Watts Towers, Scotty’s Castle, or Salvation Mountain, that were built in the past, but new building codes will guarantee that type of individual expression never happens again. Maybe we will simply continue to admire the monuments of ancient history because we can no longer build them in the present.

Chipped Paint and Broken Plaster

I am sitting in a solarium café in a hotel in Italy. The room is filled with old patio tables with simple formed steel tops and elaborate, decorative, cast metal bases. The chairs are also old and mismatched. It seems that they are simply collected over time from just about anywhere. Some are indirectly carved, others are delicately curved steel bars, bent to create curly-ques, and heart shaped backs. Like the head board of a fine brass bed. There are wicker benches with woven seats and backs. Some chairs are formed of bamboo or some type of reed. There are also simple folding chairs made from steel flat bar and wooden slats. Everything has multiple coats of paint. The last layer is white. All the paint is chipped to expose the earlier colors of the bare steel. The rest of the room is decorated with various pillows, lights, baskets, fresh fruit and plants. There are wire hearts covered in fabric hanging around the room. Some are right side up, but most are cocked at some odd angle of even upside down. It is exactly what you would see in some “Country Cottage” magazine.

It is all very romantic and appealing. I just can’t figure out why.

Two days ago I went to visit our office in Assago. It was a very modern building, the type that would e featured in “Architectural Digest”. My guess is that it was when it was first built. It is what I call an architect’s playground. The architect went wild with every new and different idea he could come up with. Often these buildings are not about beauty of even functionality; they are about being different, cutting edge, breaking the rules and being modern. The ironic thing is that in 20 years these buildings will look old and dated.

The truly old architecture is called timeless and classic. As I walk the brick streets of Tortona, Italy, I am in awe of the old brick buildings with heavy wooden doors opening to brick and tile paved courtyards—the shuttered windows and balconies with hanging flower boxes. Everywhere there is chipped plaster. Occasionally I will run across a grand old building that is abandoned and decaying. The plaster has fallen away exposing large areas of ancient brick. The red tile roof has collapsed in places letting light filter through the broken windows from the inside. Great chunks of the wall have collapsed. Somehow there is a beauty in all of this decay. It is the subject of great photographs and pencil sketches.

Once again I ask myself, “What is it that makes old decaying buildings so appealing?”

What is funny is that I can remember as a child I didn’t like old looking things. Chipped and broken, meant chipped and broken. It seemed dirty. I expected bugs to come crawling out. There was nothing beautiful or romantic about it. I liked the clean, slick modern styles.

I guess your tastes change as you get older. You appreciate what happens with the passage of time. You understand that many of those chips and broken pieces have a story—the story of people’s lives: the events that formed them, the attempts to repair them, the new plaster and the new coat of paint. Many things have no specific story, it is just the wear of daily life that weathers and shapes us and leaves small cracks, chips and smudges. The buildings, the furniture, the collection of odds and ends, the tilted hearts—they all have a story. I will never know these stories they are lost to time, as someday mine will be, but there is something beautiful and romantic about sitting in a solarium in Italy, sipping on a cappuccino, surrounded by a million silent stories told by chipped paint and broken plaster.

Familiar Faces in Foreign Places

America is very unique in that we truly are a nation of immigrants. People have come from every nation on earth, and they have become Americans. This amazing blend, this bringing together different people to form a nation is truly American. This inviting and accepting of people is one of the factors that has made America great.

People come from all over. The first generation to arrive holds strongly to their roots. They are a generation in transition. They see themselves as coming from somewhere else. The next generation sees themselves differently. They are Americans but they have a strong heritage from another country; often a country that they will never know first-hand. It is only through their parents that they maintain the connection. By the third generation they are undeniable Americans. They still may take some pride in being a hyphenated American; but they are Americans through and through, just like every other hyphenated American.

I was born and raised in America and I am a blend of a few different ethnicities. I have never been able to think of myself as anything other than American. I’m not even hyphenated. As such, I look at other Americans as just simply Americans and have not given a lot of thought to where their families come from. That has changed for me now that I have done some international traveling during the last month.

Before I left for Italy a friend, Nadine, asked what town I was going to. I said “Tortona” and she excitedly said, “My family is from that area.” A strange thing happened. As I met coworkers in the Tortona office, I began to see familiar faces. There was a girl in the office that had some facial features, gestures and way of communicating that reminded me of Cheryl, Nadine’s daughter. A Guy in the office named Simone, looked like Nadine’s son, Dan. The way he would look at me reminded me of Dan. He even had Dan’s grin. In my mind I even used it to try and help me remember names. I would say to myself, ‘Oh, yah, Simone—he is the purchasing guy that looks like Dan Deal.’

There was another thin, energetic, young man named Pietro. He reminded me of a thin, energetic, third generation Italian-American guy I worked with in California, named Nick Carbone. This whole experience of seeing familiar faces in foreign places has been interesting and kind of fun. It has made me aware of the ethnicity of my friends at home, something I had never paid much attention to. Mostly I think it is a way of avoiding being homesick. These people are strangers to me, but in some way there is comfort in seeing the American counterpart in their eyes, and their gestures.

The strangest one happened this morning at breakfast. I am in Mumbai, India right now. I sat down for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. My nephew James came up to take my order. Okay it wasn’t James, it was some Indian waiter that looked like my Mexican-American nephew, James. I smiled as he asked me something that I really didn’t understand. Then he gestured to the side with his head. I went. ‘Oh my gosh! It’s James. I never noticed before but he does that same gesture with his head.

Again it was fun and a bit comforting. I guess I am home sick.

Titanic and the Security of a Woman

Early in my marriage, maybe even before I was married, I heard a speaker say that one of the main things a woman seeks in marriage is security. I think the teaching came from James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. If it was someone else, I am sorry; I try to give credit to the right person whenever I can.

It was a good lesson to learn early on. It has served us well over time. I continue to learn the significant nuances of what this means.

As I was thinking of how to communicate this, the movie TITANIC came to mind. On the surface TITAINIC looks like a movie about a tragic accident at sea. That is not the case. The story is about Rose DeWitt Bukater who is speeding on a crash course to disaster. She is engaged Cal Hockley, a rich, handsome young man, that can provide financial security for Rose and her mother. The problem is that Rose doesn’t love him and he views Rose as another one of his possessions. Although she will have financial security she is at her wits’ end. There is something missing, something much more important. She becomes suicidal and is ready to jump off the back of the ship. Jack Dawson sees her and comes to the rescue.

Rose is intrigued by the daring young man who would apparently risk his own life to save hers. Jack is the antithesis of Cal. Jack has no money, no home and no solid plan for the future. Jack is an artistic free-spirit, spontaneously moving from one adventure to another.

Why would Rose be interested in Jack rather than Cal? What does he have to offer?

As a father, when I see a movie like this I cringe. I am afraid that my daughters will see a movie like this and decide that they want to run off with some flighty, irresponsible, free-spirit, adventure seeking artist and ruin their lives. A young man will lead her on an adventure and then tire of her and move on to someone else. Jack has a lot of those qualities and it is a little scary to watch. Part of the story is Rose rejecting being forced into a mold and choosing her own way. There is this element of youthful, rebellious adventure.

So Jack could offer rebellious adventure, but was that the whole story? Is that really what Rose was looking for? I don’t think so. Cal could give Rose financial security but he destroyed her emotional security. Jack on the other hand valued her. He came to her rescue more than once. He stood up for her. He valued her opinions and encouraged her to express herself. He wanted to share experiences with her. As the Titanic began to sink Jack was strong. He never gave up in trying to save Rose and himself. He was innovative and courageous. Even in the most hopeless of situation Rose felt secure as long as she was with Jack. To the very last moment Jack worked to make Rose secure; to make her believe that she could survive, and she did.

It is important for a man to provide security for his woman. Often we see this in terms of financial security, and that is very important, but it doesn’t end there. I learned some of these lessons early in marriage. A couple of times Beckie had come to me with some things that she was sure would shake up our relationship. I suppose they could have, but they didn’t. I assured her that they didn’t matter and that nothing was going to challenge my love for her. Someone has said that love is a choice and at those points I made a choice to love Beckie.

Early in our marriage we had some points of adjustment. Okay they were arguments, as much as Beckie argues (we really don’t argue and I can thank Beckie for that). The first few times it happened I saw fear in Beckie’s eyes. It suddenly dawned on me that the way I was reacting to her was shaking her security. I backed off and have tried to be sensitive ever since.

Much later in our marriage I went through a long period of unemployment. We were secure in our relationship so we weathered it rather well to begin with. I learned some important things during that time. One was that I could not find my security in a job or my ability to earn money. I needed to shift my confidence from myself to God. God is my provider and protector. He is the one in whom I should place my faith. It was an important lesson to learn. Since that time I have worried much less about money. Whether I have it or not really doesn’t matter much because my security is in the Lord.

Emotional security became much more important than financial security. If we were secure in our relationship with each other then we would we able to handle the financial stress. Our faith contributed to our emotional security. I heard a quote once that I really like, “An atheist is a person with no invisible means of support.”

I relate that like it was an easy lesson, it was not. I was without work, picking up odd jobs here and there, for almost a full year. As time went on Beckie felt more and more of the responsibility for the family. She was under a lot of stress but she tried not to show it. It was not right for me to let that burden fall on her. As we neared the one year mark, my confidence began to fail. When you have been without work for a few months, you can prop yourself up with, ‘It is just temporary. Something will come along soon.’ But when it has gone on for almost a year you question yourself. You begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you. You wonder if you will ever work again. Maybe you will become one of those families that live forever on public assistance. By then we were reaching a point that Beckie would have the additional stress of trying to support me emotionally as I was giving up. God in His mercy provided me with a job and we did not fall into total despair.

That year was 1990. It is now 2015 and I experienced another layoff. We have learned the lessons of the past and our confidence is in God as our provider and protector. But there were still lessons to learn. I knew that if I would place my full confidence in God that my faith would be contagious and that Beckie could feel confident in God also. We would be secure even though we were on a sinking ship. She would look to me to lead in faith. What I didn’t realize was how that works. We decided to spend some time seeking the Lord’s direction. I told Beckie that even though I often pray for God’s direction, I often don’t feel like I receive a clear indication from God as to what I should do. This seemed pretty normal for me so it didn’t really bother me. I have often seen people overstate their “Leading from the Lord”, and I don’t want to be one of those people.

When I shared this with Beckie, I saw that look in her eyes again. It was fear. I realized what was happening. We were seeking God for direction. She was looking to me to receive that direction from God and I was telling her not to trust my ability to discern God’s leading. Once again I could see that her security was shaken. I could see that I was placing responsibilities on her that clearly should belong to me.

The burden was on me to do a better job of seeking the Lord, discerning His leading and providing leadership in taking action. As it worked out I still did not hear a voice from heaven but I do think that God clearly led. I don’t think this is the last time we will be in a learning situation like this. Each time l learned a little bit more about myself a little bit more about faith and my amazing God, and a little bit more about Beckie and the emotional security of a women.

I hope you have learned some things through my sharing.

Bee Sting

Does True Faith have a Plan B?

I grew up in suburbia twenty miles east of Los Angeles. The community was built in the mid-1950s, a pretty typical suburban development of the time. The neighborhood was cookie cutter houses, chosen from about five different floor plans. All of the houses used the same group of plants in the landscaping but they were arranged a little differently at each house. The kids all played together in the street a little like “Leave it to Beaver”.

When I was about eight years old one of the favorite activities was to catch bees. Now, as a parent, I call this type of activity, “childhood stupidity”. So, write it off to childhood stupidity, but catching bees was what we did. The neighborhood was filled with shrubs called, wax-leaf privets. They have dark green waxy leaves about an inch wide and two inches long. In the spring they produce dense clusters of very small white blossoms and the bees loved them. The neighbor across the street had a hedge made of wax-leaf privets; the perfect place to catch bees.

To catch bees you would take a milk bottle, yes milk came in glass bottles at the time. You would hold the bottle upside down and lower it over a bee humming about the blossom cluster. Once the bee realized that something was wrong, he would try to escape by flying up into the bottle. Then you quickly place the cardboard bottle cap over the opening to trap your prize.

The first bee is the easy one. We would repeat this process of opening the bottle and trapping a second bee without letting the first, rather angry bee, out. If you were good you could trap four or five bees in the same bottle.

Normally there were about three boys involved in this activity. We would egg each other on, or encourage one another, depending on your perspective. There was an element of competition and pride over who would push the envelope and do the dangerous thing of catching one more bee.

One day a couple of the neighbor boys came knocking on the door. They were all excited. As I came outside they said, ‘Mike caught a bee with his bare hands.” Okay, that had to be the ultimate accomplishment in bee catching. That was boyhood bravery.

As we were walking across the street I was overcome by a sudden wave of childhood stupidity. Was it bravery, courage, naivety, pride, or misplaced faith? I don’t know for sure but the boys assured me that Mike had accomplished this extreme act of bravery and he had not been stung. I believed them and I wasn’t about to be out done, so I confidently said, “I can do that.”

As the other boys watched in nervous anticipation, I boldly walked up to the hedge. I looked at them again and asked for reassurance, “Mike really caught a bee with his bare hands and was not stung?“ Mike said “yes”, and the other boys said, “Yes, I saw him.” So based on that testimony, I stepped up, cupped my hands and caught a bee WITH MY BARE HANDS. For a brief moment I could feel his wings buzz against the palms of my hands and his body bounce from side to side. The other boys looked on in amazement. Then it happened, the bee stung me. I jumped back and let go of the bee. My hand hurt, and tears began to roll down my face. I can’t remember for sure, but I think I went home for a while.

I was hurt and confused. How did Mike catch a bee with his bare hands and not get stung? Was he just lucky? My friends wouldn’t have lied to me. What really happened out there?

A few minutes later I went back outside and questioned my friends. “I thought you said that Mike caught a bee with his bare hands?” They all said that he had and that they had seen it with their own eyes. So I challenged Mike, “Do it again. Show me.” So Mike turned to the hedge, pulled the sleeves of his heavy sweater over his hands and nervously cupped a bee in his hands. He held it for about one second, then let it go and ran about ten feet away.

The childhood debate ensued. “That’s not bare hands.” “Yes, it is.” “No it isn’t, you pulled your sleeves over your hands.” “That’s sill bare hands. “ No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” “I never said you couldn’t use your sleeves.” “That’s cheating!” “No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” And on and on it went.

My friends had made a claim that I took to be true at face value. I believed that what was true for them could be true for me. I had faith, as misguided as it was, it was childhood faith. Based on their statements, I stepped out in faith (or pride), and I got stung. On closer examination, they didn’t believe their own claims. They said you could catch a bee with your bare hands, but they were unwilling to truly risk it. They hedged their bet. They covered themselves.

Last night I was giving a couple of young men a ride home. As we were driving I made a statement that sounded so good. It was one of those quotable statements that someone would post on Facebook. I said, “Real faith doesn’t have a back-up plan.” It was so easy to say, but as soon as the words cleared my lips I was struck by how good and noble it sounds, but how hard it is to do. Pastors and other Christians talk boldly about living by faith, but when it comes down to it we are formulating back-up plans. We are pulling the sleeves of our sweaters down over our hands. We say that we believe but we are going to protect ourselves so we don’t get stung.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says to not layup for yourself treasures on earth. Do we believe that enough to actually practice it, or do we not lay-up a lot of treasures. Or do we lay-up treasures but then claim that we really aren’t placing our confidence in them.

In the same passage Jesus said, 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Elsewhere Jesus says, “pick-up your cross and follow me.” That is not just a willingness to die for Jesus. It is a following Jesus with no plan B. There is no turning back. No hedging your bets. No pulling down your sleeves to cover yourself.

The question is not what other people are doing. The questions are for me. Am I willing to risk it all and follow Him? Am I willing to move forward without a plan B, a safety net? I have seen how others do it. Theirs is limited faith, but what is mine? Am I willing to believe Jesus for what He said, the way He said it? Am I going to reach out in faith, and risk being stung? Risk the ridicule of those around me.

Can you really catch a bee with your bare hands? It is hard to do when you have been stung once; but this time the challenge doesn’t come from childhood friends, it comes from the Son of God. Do I believe Him? Is it child-like faith or childish stupidity? I think I will risk it again and go with faith.

Following God’s Leading

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

More than seven years ago, Jim and I worked together on the design for a plastics plant to be built in Saudi Arabia. We didn’t work that closely together; in fact I can’t exactly remember what it is that we collaborated on. That was the only time that Jim and I worked together.
Not too long after that an incident occurred at work and three employees were let go. Jim was one of them. This was a major shake-up in our department and it was a major personal shake-up for Jim. From my understanding, he did some deep evaluation of his personal relationships and his relationship with God. One of the results is that he began to attend Christ’s Church of the Valley more regularly with his wife Debbie.
Once in a while Jim and I would run into each other at Church and make small talk about how things were going at our companies. Due to a shortage of available contracts, Jim found himself traveling for work. He would spend months in South Carolina (or maybe it was North Carolina. I’m not sure). Once or twice a year we would cross paths. Jim told me that he had been watching the CCV Church service online and that he could see me standing in the audience during the worship time. I happened to sit in the line of sight of the camera.
Fast forward to a few months ago, I was laid off from my job in February. Our major client went through a reorganization that directly affected my division. My company went through its own reorganization that further impacted my division. On top of that oil prices have plummeted, devastating the petrochemical industry as a whole. The bottom line is that after more than 17 years with my company, I was out of work and there was little chance that I would be going back to my previous employer.
It just so happens that my last day was just before the beginning of Lent. We have observed Lent for the past few years; it has been a valuable spiritual discipline. So this year I decided to give up work for Lent (or maybe it was decided for me). At any rate, I decided that rather than go after the quickest job I could find, I would use the 40 days of Lent to truly seek God’s direction for my next steps in life.
Without going into too much detail, I explored ministry related opportunities and sought out counsel from persons I respect. None of the ministry related opportunities showed any chance of developing into a vocation.
What did happen is that one morning in Church, Debbie, Jim’s wife, sat three places away from me, next to my mother-in-law. After the service my mother-in-law and her spoke briefly and then she greeted me and asked how things were going. I told her that I have been laid-off and she said that I should call Jim to see if they had any work. She gave me his number and I said I would call. Monday I didn’t call, but on Tuesday Jim called me. We talked for a while and he asked me to send my resume; which I did. My resume was pretty generic. Jim made some suggestions and I rewrote it to tailor it to the job. I sent it back and on Good Friday I had a Skype interview. By the next Monday we were discussing the details of a job offer and by the week after Easter I had the job.
For the past seven years, my career has been stagnating with no opportunity for advancement. This job will stretch me and give me all kinds of growth opportunities. It is a minimum one year assignment. I will be deeply involved with materials control for construction of the largest plastics plant in the world. I will be working with locations all around the world: India 2 design firms, China 1 design, 2 design/fabricators, 1 module fabricator, Italy 2 project management sites, Brazil 1 design site, and construction in Texas. On top of that, I will be making considerably more than I ever have before along with a good benefits package. The last day of my leave of absence is Friday April 17th. My first day on the new job is the following Monday.
Was this God’s leading? I can’t say for sure, but it seems that God had Jim and I working together on the one right project. He allowed us to maintain contact over the years. When the time was right we made the connection. All of the other opportunities never materialized in any significant way.
Like I said, I can’t say for sure that this is God’s leading, but it seems to be. One way or another I intend to take the advantage of the opportunity and use it to the glory of God. I still feel God is continuing to prepare me for something else and this is just one more step in the process. I am anxious to see what else He has in store.


Have you ever thought about the fact that we are known by our edges? Countries are defined by their boarders and people are defined by their extremities.
When computer designers and programmers tried to “teach” computers how to “see” they started by programing them to find lines. They were looking for the lines that were the outside of the object. Once they could find the outline they could compare the shape to a memory bank of images that had names attached. Sometimes the edge is difficult to see. If the item is the same color as the background the edge is hard to define. The computers were “taught” to take the known information and to create lines to complete the shape. Basically they would take known points and connect the dots to complete the shape in a way that matched the most likely known image. This is exactly what our brains do to identify images.
What is interesting is that we are known by our extremities. The same seems to be true of our reputations. Think about it. We are not known by our normal day to day activities. Our reputations rest on our extremes. Monica Lewinski is not known for her daily activities as an intern, rather she will always be remembered for sexual activity with President Clinton. Christopher Columbus is not remembered for his years of service as a navigator, rather he is remembered for pushing the edge and discovering the New World.
We also tend to be known for our great victories or our great failures. These are the edges or our reputations. They shape how people perceive us. Any object rests on its lowest point. I hate to say it, but reputations rest on our lowest points. People just naturally tend to focus on our failures more than our successes. A good reputation can be built over a lifetime and one major failure can call our entire character into question. That is why the book of Proverbs so often comments on the value of a good name.
Recently I watched someone close to me do something incredibly stupid. My response was not to look at it as an isolated event. Instead my mind began to rerun all of the events of the last year or so. I reevaluated everything trying to discern their motivations in light of this recent failure. Everything was brought into question. Everything that I had chosen to interpret in a positive light now was covered with a dark cloud of doubt.
The high points were canceled out by this new low point.
“A man’s good name rests on his but.”
It is said that when the word “but” is used in a sentence it means, disregard everything that came before. For example, ‘Frank is a good talker, I have been impressed by the way he thinks and presents himself, but I don’t trust him’.
You see we are defined by our edges. People judge us by our extremes not by our daily activities, and the negatives tend to overwhelm the positives.
Many Christians are familiar with the Bible verse that says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God look on the heart.” We tend to read that and focus on the stuff after the ‘but.’ We focus on the fact that we are not to live to please the eyes of men. We are not to just put on a facade for people to see, rather we are to work on our hearts, our intents and motives. You can put on a show for people but God is not fooled.
We ignore the first part of the verse. People only know us by what they see. They start with what they see, our actions, and then they infer our motives. It is not easy for people to get an accurate picture of us. You don’t always get to explain yourself. Besides, explanations, excuses and apologies only go so far. The only way to have good reputation is to start from the inside out. Have the pure intents and motives. Then have actions that are always consistent with your pure motives.
Above all watch your “buts”.

Does Christianity Suppress Women?

I while back I watched a debate between a Christian and an Atheist on YouTube. During the closing statements the Atheist dropped his guard and became very frank and honest, which I appreciate. He brought up a point that had not been part of the debate. He said he objects with religion because religion suppresses women and other groups. I could tell from his tone and facial expression this was a sincerely held belief. I sensed that as an outspoken atheist, he saw himself as a defender of the disadvantaged.
The view of religion as suppressing women is common. Even within the Christian Church there are ongoing debates about the role and position of women in the home and in the church. People will point to passages that say women must submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18), women should be silent in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), or women should not teach in church or have authority over a man (I Timothy 2:11-13).
I tell you, if I were a woman coming from the popular, women’s liberation, women’s rights culture and I read those passages then I would want nothing to do with the Christian Church. But I am not a woman and I don’t come from a non-Christian background. I grew up in the church and I know the teachings of Jesus and his care for women. He had a faithful following of women that stayed with Him all the way. They were there with Him at the crucifixion, when nearly all of the men had abandoned Him. Mary was the first one at the empty tomb on Easter morning. She was the first one that He spoke to. If women were so oppressed then why were they such faithful followers? It doesn’t make sense.
Some would say, ‘That was Jesus, but the teachings of Paul and the current churches oppress women’. It is obvious that people that make such statements have never been in a church, or if they have, they never looked around them. Go to any church of any denomination on any Sunday. What you will find is a lot of women. Typically women will outnumber men two to one. If Christianity is a tool used by men to suppress women, then the Church should be filled with men dragging their submissive wives to Church every Sunday. The opposite is true. Women turn out to church in droves. They beg their husbands to attend. They go to prayer meeting and ask for prayer. The greatest desire of their hearts is that their husbands come to know Jesus. These “suppressed” women somehow believe that if their husbands become Christians they will become better men and better husbands.
There is a real disconnect here. It seems that the old proverb, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” applies here. Christianity works. It works for women and it works for men. What looks like suppression, seems to in reality be liberation.
It is a theme within Christianity that our first impressions are usually wrong. God’s methods are not our methods. Jesus says that to live you must take up your cross and follow Him, the first shall be last and the last shall be first, to be the leader you must be servant of all, in weakness we are strong, the poor are rich in the kingdom of God, and on and on. These things don’t make sense to our normal thinking, but to the fully devoted follower of Christ, they make perfect sense; because they work. I can’t fully explain it; but it is true. Praise be to God!

Stirred, not Shaken

Random Thoughts

I had been working around the house all morning and really needed to get outside for a little while. I decided to water the lawn, which, with our current drought in California, is probably some kind of major crime. But the lawn had not been watered in months and I needed to get outside, so I figured I would risk the jail time and water anyway.
As I was walking out the door I remembered coming across a page of prayer requests while cleaning the table. I decided it would be a good idea to water and pray at the same time, so I grabbed the paper and headed outside.
I started in at the top of the page. There was line after line about people in desperate need. Some had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Others were entering the final stages of that dreaded disease. For one person it seemed like everyone in the family had lost their jobs. There were two cases of brain tumors: one in an older person and one in a very young child. I prayed for each one. As I did I became keenly aware of how much people around me are quietly suffering. Of course I had those kinds of questions as to why God doesn’t just heal them all. I know the technical answers but I still feel their pain and know that God does too. I was also grateful that God has spared me and my family from that level of suffering.
Then as often happens when I pray, my mind began to wander. I thought that maybe God didn’t test me like that because I couldn’t handle it. My mind suddenly switched to the James Bond movie Beckie and I have recently watched, and the scene where the bartender fixes him a martini, shaken not stirred. As random thoughts go, I was back to the prayer list, that long list of people going through trials and personal tragedies, things that could shake a person’s faith to the core. But that is not God’s purpose. God puts us through trials to stir our faith not to shake it. Stirred, not shaken.